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17 unmissable things to do in Madrid | AUGUST 2019

Looking for things to do in Madrid? We've got 17 of the most unmissable activities to make the most of your time in this stunning destination.

Looking for things to do in Madrid? Well, you’re in luck. Madrid is not only an incredibly lively and mesmerising city, it’s also chock-a-block full of amazing things to do. Even better, this fiesta-full city is super budget-friendly – most of the things on this list will only cost you a few euros!

Things to do in Madrid #1 – Take in the amazing views

The city of Madrid dates back to the Stone Age – seriously. As a result, this is a city brimming with history and infused with unbelievable architecture. When you arrive in this sun-drenched kingdom head straight to the top to take in the views.

Things to do in Madrid: see the view of Madrid from Mirador
The view from Mirador Madrid offers 360-degree views of the city.

Mirador Madrid is located in the city centre inside the Cibeles Palace and Spain’s oldest post office. From the top your breath stolen by the 360 degree views of the city, especially the convergence of the Gran Vía and Calle Alcalá, Paseo de la Castellana or El Retiro Park.

A ticket for this experience will set you back only 2 euros – a small price to pay for some of the best views in Madrid.

Things to do in Madrid #2 – Go back in time at Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor was once home to coronations, bullfights, and beheadings. Hundreds of years later and it’s home to a dozen tourist shops and overpriced restaurants.

Things to do in Madrid: Plaza Mayor
Grand is the only word to describe Plaza Mayor.

But don’t let that deter you from visiting this amazing piece of history. If you dare to look past the dazzling arrays of magnets and postcards, you can notice the cobblestones that have seen more than you can imagine, the walls that swallowed the history of the square, and the portico-lined buildings that saw men draw their swords and crowds watch citizens be tortured – or meet their deaths.

Things to do in Madrid #3 – Eat bocadillo de calamares

If Madrid has a city dish to beat them all it ‘aint tapas – it’s bocadillo de calamares. It’s not a fancy dish by any means, which is good because that means the price is right: you shouldn’t pay any more than four euros for one of these babies.

What is it? It’s simple – calamari put on a white bread bun and that’s it. Order it at a metal counter from some intimidating Spanish men, and stand outside while you cram it in your mouth. Don’t let any of that calamari fall on the floor because these sandwiches are delicious!

LifeProTip: request it with a wedge of lemon and some salt for some extra zing!

Two girls eat bocadillo de calamares in Madrid, Spain
Deep fried squid in a sandwich? Um, yes please.

We can personally recommend Bar la Campana for a delicious calamares goodness every time.

Things to do in Madrid #4 – Pick up a bargain at a flea market

Wandering the flea markets of Madrid is free, unless you fall to temptation along the way – remember you need to fit it in your bag later! Nevertheless, heading to a flea market should be high on your to-do list while in this stunning city.

If proximity is your main concern, join the hordes at the popular open-air El Rastro, open every Sunday and public holiday. You’ll find a mix of old Levi jeans, sequined handbags, compasses, and mass-produced souvenirs – and in the summer a stack of people.

Madrid's El Rastro Market
It’s packed – but it’s prime.

If you’d prefer to go a bit further off the beaten path, stop by Mercado de Motores every two weeks. This market is a bit more trendy, upscale, and unique than El Rastro which may offer you a slightly more authentic experience.

Things to do in Madrid #5 – Check out Chueca

Chueca is hands-down my favourite neighbourhood in Madrid – and perhaps my favourite neighbourhood anywhere! It could have something to do with all the rainbow flags hanging in the windows, the friendly people who walk the streets, or the unique stores that are prolific in the area, who knows? There’s just so many things to love about Chueca.

Rainbow flags hang on balconies in Chueca, Madrid
My favourite neighbourhood on all my travels is the rainbow-covered Chueca.

The LGBTQ capital of Madrid is also supremely located – you can head into the brown streets of Chueca directly from Calle de Fuencarral, one of the main shopping streets in Madrid.

Things to do in Madrid #6 – Stuff your face with tapas

Spain and tapas go together like cheese and wine – very, very well. To get your fix of delicious tiny share plates head to Calle De Cava Baja, a.k.a Tapas Street. La PerejilaTxakolina and El Tempranillo are some favourites.

However, if you’re looking for an option that won’t break the bank head to Lamiak – and for the love of god, get the cheese board. It may not be traditional, but it’s delicious and cheap.

tapas on a table in Madrid
A thousand tiny things to cram into your mouth, just the way I like it.

Make sure you take in all the beauty that is Calle De Cava Baja – this street is full of charming buildings and historic relics!

Things to do in Madrid #7 – Walk through an indoor rainforest

If you’re heading to Madrid by train, there’s a good chance you’ll arrive at Atocha Train Station. While it’s slightly far away from the city centre, it has one awesome thing going for it – a rainforest inside.

To get to this indoor rainforest you need to walk away from the local trains to the international trains – or just ask one of the ultra-friendly volunteers in the station for guidance.

Hectic train station? Nah, check out this indoor rainforest while you’re in Madrid.

Then, let the hustle and bustle of a capital city train station fade away as you lose yourself in the leafy-greens of the rainforest. Rumour has it there are turtles too, but sadly we weren’t lucky enough to spot them.

Things to do in Madrid #8 – Stand in the dead centre of Spain

Puerto del sol is Ground Zero of Spain – the dead centre of the country, and is the starting point for all radial roads in Spain. Located in central Madrid, this iconic and busy square is marked by the statue of a bear nuzzling a strawberry tree.

Don’t forget to turn your attention to the clock atop the Casa de Correos building. If you’re lucky enough to be here on New Years Eve you’ll see a curious sight: people eating twelve different grapes as the clock chimes midnight. We don’t personally need an excuse to eat delicious juicy grapes, but whatever brings good luck, right?

Things to do in Madrid #9 – Eat churros in the oldest churro bar

You may have eaten churros at theme parks, cinemas, or festivals, but you’ve never had them like this. Chow down on these crispy donut sticks is a must-do, and the most appropriate place is San Gines, who’ve been serving churros for generations.

Order the churros con chocolate (no translation needed!), and indulge in perhaps the best combination of food items ever invented. These are pretty rich, so if you’re stuffed full of tapas from dinner consider sharing a plate instead. Or, head back later – the restaurant is open 24/7.

Things to do in Madrid #10 – Explore Malasana

Hip, trendy, and full of life – that’s almost all you need to know about this trendsetting Madrid neighbourhood. When looking for things to do in Madrid, Malasana should be topping your list.

Stop by San Antón market for a delicious lunch stacked with international cuisine, and see firsthand the energy that radiates from Plaza Dos de Mayo, an urban square commemorating an 1808 uprising but now brimming with bars, restaurants, shops and nightlife to die for.

Things to do in Madrid #11 – Take some time-out in El Retiro Park

Whew! You must be tired from all these things to do in Madrid, so go on, take a break. Come up for breath and fresh air in El Retiro Park, an oasis of greenery covering 125 hectares.

Rowboat around the giant man-made lake, explore the Crystal Palace, or wander through the stacks of statues that line the pathway. El Retiro is a sanctuary in the huge city, and an unmissable place to go.

Things to do in Madrid #12 – See the grandeur of Gran Via

There’s a good chance you’ll accidentally come across Gran Via at some point while doing these things in Madrid – it’s the backbone of the city! The name literally means ‘Great Way’ – and it does not disappoint!

Gran Via in Madrid.
You can’t miss it.

Take notice (and pictures!) of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco facades that give the buildings Grandeur, and stroll the street while checking out the various cinemas, shops, theatres and bars.

Things to do in Madrid #13 – Eat in the oldest restaurant in the world

It’s bloody expensive, but it’s an experience to remember for sure. The oldest restaurant in the world has been housed in Madrid for over 300 years. El Sobrino de Botin appeared in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and needs a reservation pretty far in advance.

Things to do in Madrid: visit Sobrino de Botin
Can you really put a price on history?

We haven’t made it here yet, but if we did we would be taking the The Botin Experience where you get a guided tour throughout the entire restaurant before being served a multi-course dinner including their famous sucking pig – and a gift to remember the night. After all, if you’re going to do something expensive do it right, we reckon.

Things to do in Madrid #14 – See the quaintly cool Literary Quarter

Soak up some sweet Madrid culture in the very cool Literary Quarter. We can only hope that being home to Spanish literary celeb Miguel de Cervantes (author of a little book called Don Quixote, ya might have heard of it) some of that creativity may rub off on us.

If not, no problem – there are heaps of quirky bars and restaurants sprinkled through the streets of Barrio de Las Letras to drown your sorrows.

LifeProTip: keep your eyes on the ground for some truly inspiring literary quotes.

Things to do in Madrid #15 – Head to Spanish Paris

Paris in Madrid? We ‘aint crazy, because Plaza de la Villa de Paris (Colón) is here to give your some sweet French vibes in the middle in Madrid. It’s a secluded square right near Plaza Colon with unique architecture to anywhere else in the city.

Things to do in Madrid #16 – Dance in a secret, underground club

Madrid may be all sunshine and stunning buildings, but sometimes you’ve got to go grungy and underground. Medias Puri is a club below the pavement, hidden from the street where up to 1000 people can party it up.

Spanning across three dance floors, grinding underground is an unmissable evening activity when looking for things to do in Madrid.

Things to do in Madrid #17 – See the ghost of a subway station

Off the well-beaten tourist path is a decommissioned subway station. Chamberí was once the home to Line 1 until the trains became far too long to fit. While the station was closed in the 1960’s, visitors can explore the perfectly preserved station on Saturdays and Sundays for free, subject to capacity.

Otherwise, keep an eye out for a flash of the mystery station while riding the metro’s Blue Line.

What was your favourite on the list? Got a top things for an unmissable thing to do in Madrid? Leave it in the comments below!

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